JOBS BOOST THROUGH FAST-TRACKED PLANNING SYSTEM

Friday, 3 April 2020

JOBS BOOST THROUGH FAST-TRACKED PLANNING SYSTEM

The NSW Government will cut red tape and fast-track planning processes to keep people in jobs and the construction industry moving throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the construction and development sectors will be vital in keeping people in jobs and supporting the State’s economic recovery.

“We are fast-tracking assessments to keep people in jobs, boost the construction pipeline and keep our economy moving,” Mr Stokes said.

“Our economic recovery will in many ways be longer and harder than the health one and it’s essential we do everything we can now to keep our State moving forward and allow work to continue wherever possible in line with the best medical advice.”

The Planning System Acceleration Program will:

  • Create opportunities for more than 30,000 construction jobs in the next six months;
  • Fast-track assessments of State Significant Developments, rezonings and development applications (DAs), with more decisions to be made by the Minister if required;
  • Support councils and planning panels to fast-track local and regionally significant DAs;
  • Introduce a ‘one stop shop’ for industry to progress projects that may be ‘stuck in the system’;
  • Clear the current backlog of cases stuck in the Land & Environment Court with additional Acting Commissioners; and
  • Invest $70 million to co-fund vital new community infrastructure in North West Sydney including roads, drainage and public parks to unlock plans for the construction of thousands of new houses.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the property and construction industry is one of the key drivers of jobs and investment in NSW, employing one in four people in the State.

“In the past six months alone, the NSW Government has approved projects and rezonings worth more than $15 billion and created more than 24,000 jobs across the State – that trend must continue as we move through this crisis,” Mr Perrottet said.

Mr Stokes said the planning system would undergo further reform to ensure it enables economic growth once the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“This will pass and when it does, the planning system will be ready to continue driving economic productivity across the State,” Mr Stokes said.

Further details of additional reforms will be released in the coming weeks.

MEDIA: Trevor Seymour | Treasurer | 0427 253 927

Jessica Reid | Minister Stokes | 0429 369 565

CONSTRUCTION HOURS EXTENDED TO SUPPORT INDUSTRY DURING COVID-19

NSW Government MEDIA RELEASE 02 April 2020

Rob Stokes Minister for Planning and Pubic Spaces

Construction sites can now operate on weekends and public holidays under new rules introduced today by the NSW Government to support the industry during the COVID – 19 pandemic.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the move allows workers to abide by social distancing rules while keeping construction projects progressing by allowing building work to be spread across more days of the week.

“The construction and development sectors, which make up almost 10 per cent of NSW’s economy, will be vital in keeping people in jobs and keeping investment flowing over the coming weeks and months,” Mr Stokes said.

“We’re doing what we can to support the industry in line with the current medical advice by extending weekday construction site operating hours to weekends and public holidays.

“The extended hours allow the industry to facilitate social distancing on construction sites, while minimising the potential for lost productivity during the pandemic.”

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development Construction Work Days) Order 2020 is now in place and will continue until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, or the advice of NSW Health changes.

“In NSW there are almost 400,000 people employed in the property and construction industry and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep each of them in work, but most importantly, to keep them safe and healthy,” Mr Stokes said.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 was amended on 24 March to enable Mr Stokes to issue orders that override normal planning controls during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health, safety and welfare of communities.

Compliance with this Order will be monitored and reviewed if there any adverse impacts on the community or from a public health perspective.

MEDIA: Jessica Reid | 0429 369 565

Download Media Release here. 

NEW JOBS HUB HIGHLIGHTING JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR AUSTRALIANS

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

2 April 2020

NEW JOBS HUB HIGHLIGHTING JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR AUSTRALIANS

The Government has today launched a new Jobs Hub which highlights which businesses and organisations have multiple jobs on offer.

In this rapidly changing jobs market the Morrison Government is supporting businesses and those Australians looking for work.

An up to date list of a selection of businesses and organisations that are currently hiring, and how to contact them, can be found at: www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/jobs-hub

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said the Government was continuing to do everything it could to keep Australians connected to the workforce at this time.

“These are critical jobs that will contribute to keeping the economy going and keeping as many Australians in work as possible,” she said.

While many businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and are reducing their workforces, there are some areas of the economy which have an increased demand for workers.

These include jobs in a range of sectors and occupations including health and care sectors, transport and logistics, some areas of retail, mining and mining services, manufacturing, agriculture and government sectors, among others.

“Every Australian with a job is an essential worker. I continue to work with employers, industry peak organisations, employment services providers and others in the labour market to identify where the jobs are and help move people looking for work into these jobs quickly.”

Employers who are hiring and want support to connect with potential candidates can also contact the Department of Education, Skills and Employment at workforce@dese.gov.au to be connected directly with businesses reducing their workforces; and the employment services network to source suitable candidates.

“If you are hiring, particularly scaling up your workforce quickly, I encourage you to email our Workforce Contact Centre so you can be connected with the support you need to get your workforce on board.

“Our Employer Response Unit can work with you to identify the best option to source suitable candidates, and help you with your recruitment to make it as smooth as possible so you can get on with delivering essential services in this difficult time.”

MEDIA CONTACTS

Guy Creighton – Guy.Creighton@employment.gov.au – 0438 815 302 Brittany Higgins – Brittany.higgins@employment.gov.au – 0449 171 294

LAUNCH OF NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE SOCIAL DISTANCING ON BUILDING SITES

Media Release – Master Builders

01 April 2020

A national advertising campaign has been launched to promote social distancing and strict hygiene on the nation’s building sites.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said the campaign would run for the next four weeks and was targeted to everyone working in the building and construction sector because everyone has a responsibility to ensure that social distancing and good hygiene are being practiced.

“Business owners, employers, construction workers, subcontractors, site managers – everyone must be accountable for social distancing and strict hygiene not only on building sites but also off site when on breaks and before and after shifts,” she said.

“As an essential industry it’s vital to the community and the economy that in this extraordinarily difficult time we can continue building and construction work to provide the livelihoods of 1 in 10 Australians and to support the viability of nearly 400,000 small businesses,” Denita Wawn said.

“It’s important that the health and wellbeing of everyone in our industry and community remains our top priority which is why the industry is continuing to embed social distancing and strict hygiene practices on site. It’s also why we have joined forces with the CFMEU and the AWU to promote an even stronger safety culture as our industry and our community faces the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.

“However, we do recognise the substantial cultural change that we are asking everyone in our industry to make. Everyone including workers, subcontractors and management are used to completing building projects as efficiently as possible. Social distancing is slowing work down, but slower work is better than no work and that is why we are asking everyone in our industry to step up and be accountable for doing the right thing to keep each other and the community safe,” Denita Wawn said.

“There are 1.2 million people and nearly 400,000 small businesses in communities around Australia that go to work every day in our industry which provides the most full time jobs and is made up of the most SMEs than any other sector in the economy. That is why we have launched this campaign,” Denita Wawn said.

 

For more information contact:

Ben Carter, National Director, Media & Public Affairs, 0447 775 507

THE HON. SCOTT MORRISON MP PRESS CONFERENCE 30 MARCH 2020

The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister

Transcript – Press Conference Australian Parliament House ACT Monday 30 March 2020

BILLIONS IN TAX RELIEF FOR BUSINESS, $1 BILLION FUND FOR JOBS, AND HELP FOR THE VULNERABLE (NSW)

NSW MEDIA RELEASE – BILLIONS IN TAX RELIEF FOR BUSINESS, $1 BILLION FUND FOR JOBS, AND HELP FOR THE VULNERABLE (NSW)

CORONAVIRUS AND AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE LAWS

Coronavirus and Australian Workplace Laws

Last updated 25 March 2020 | Published 4 February 2020

Recent updates – 25 March 2020

On 24 March 2020 the Fair Work Commission made a determination to vary the Hospitality Award. The new Schedule L applies from 24 March to 30 June 2020. The changes improve award flexibility during the outbreak of coronavirus for classifications and duties, hours of work for full-time and part-time employees and annual leave.
Recent updates – 24 March 2020

Updated:
• Government information about coronavirus
• Enforceable government directions
• When can employees be stood down without pay?
• What if an employee cannot attend work because their child’s school or childcare centre has closed due to coronavirus?

We’ll continue to update the information on our website as the situation develops and as needed. The information provided is current as at the time of the last update. It is not legal advice but represents the views of the Fair Work Ombudsman based on the best available information. We encourage you to regularly check this page for more information.
On this page we provide links to important Government information about coronavirus.
We also answer frequently asked questions about workplace obligations and entitlements if you’re affected by the outbreak of coronavirus (also known as COVID-19).

Government information about coronavirus

Please visit:
• Australian Government Department of Health – for the latest information on the virus, including requirements and conditions for isolation and quarantine periods and when testing should be sought
• Services Australia – for information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including Centrelink payments and support
• Australian Government Treasury department – for information on the Federal Government’s economic response to coronavirus, including information on support for individuals, businesses and the economy
• Australia.gov.au – for the latest coronavirus news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia
• Business.gov.au – for information about financial assistance, eligibility and timing for new government support for Australian businesses.

Health and safety in the workplace
• your State or Territory Public Health Unit’s website – for local coronavirus response activities and advice
• Safe Work Australia – for information and referrals about managing the risks of contracting coronavirus in the workplace
• your State or Territory workplace health and safety body – who can also assist with workers compensation enquiries
• Comcare (Commonwealth) – for Australian Government employees and for employees of organisations which self-insure under the scheme
• Smart Traveller’s webpage on coronavirus
• Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) – for information on privacy obligations for private sector employers (including health sector providers) relating to coronavirus.

Enforceable government directions

Where the Commonwealth or a State or Territory Government or officer makes an order, determination or direction that is enforceable under the law (an enforceable government direction) and which prevents an employee from working, an employer is not required to pay the employee (unless the employee uses paid leave entitlements).

This could occur, for example, where an enforceable government direction closes down a particular work site (and there is no way for employees to work remotely), or where an enforceable government direction prevents a particular employee from working (e.g. because they are required to self-isolate). In these instances, the employer is not required to pay the employee (unless the employee uses paid leave entitlements).

The situation is changing rapidly, and most States and Territories have now put in place enforceable government directions to prohibit mass gatherings or events, and some are enforcing self-isolation requirements for travellers and other people exposed to coronavirus.

In line with recent government announcements, some enforceable government directions have already been, or will soon be, issued with respect to restaurants, gyms, pubs, clubs and other services deemed non-essential. For example, the Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer has issued an enforceable government direction that certain non-essential services must shut down between 12pm on 23 March 2020 and 12am on 13 April 2020. The New South Wales Government has issued a similar enforceable government direction.

As these enforceable government directions have been issued, some affected businesses are likely to be able to stand down employees, if they cannot usefully be employed. See When can employees be stood down without pay?

Frequently asked questions: Workplace obligations and entitlements

We encourage employees and employers to work together to find appropriate solutions that suit the needs of individual workplaces and staff. This may include taking different forms of leave, working from home, or taking extra precautions in the workplace.

If you have an urgent enquiry about your workplace obligations or entitlements, please contact us on 13 13 94 and select the prompt for the coronavirus hotline.

On this page:
• When can employers direct employees to stay away from their usual workplace under workplace health and safety laws?
When can employees be stood down without pay?
What if an employee cannot attend work because their child’s school or childcare centre has closed due to coronavirus?
What happens if an employee or their family member is sick with coronavirus?
What if an employee is stuck overseas or is required to be quarantined or to self-isolate?
What if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution?
What if an employer wants their employees to stay home as a precaution?
When can employees work from home?
What about casual employees and independent contractors?
Can an employer change an employee’s regular roster or hours of work?
What if an employer needs to let employees go?
Can employees be directed not to travel?

When can employers direct employees to stay away from their usual workplace under workplace health and safety laws?

Safe Work Australia has information about when an employer can direct employees to stay away from their usual workplace under the model workplace health and safety laws.

More information:
State or Territory workplace health and safety bodies – for information on State and Territory workplace health and safety
• Australian Government Department of Health .

When can employees be stood down without pay?

Employers and employees are encouraged to work together to find appropriate solutions that suit the needs of individual workplaces and staff. Employees who are stood down without pay remain employed for the period of the stand down.

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee can only be stood down without pay if they cannot be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

Whether the option of standing down employees is available in circumstances relating to coronavirus is very fact dependent and an employer should exercise the option cautiously. The employer must be able to demonstrate that:
• there is a stoppage of work
• the employees to be stood down cannot be usefully employed (which is not limited to the work an employee usually performs)
• the cause of the stoppage must also be one that the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible for.

If an employer unlawfully stands down employees without pay, the employees will likely be able to recover unpaid wages.

Employers cannot generally stand down employees simply because of a deterioration of business conditions or because an employee has coronavirus.

Some examples of when employers may be able to stand down employees include:
• if there was an enforceable government direction requiring the business to close (which means there is no work at all for the employees to do, even from another location)
• if a large proportion of the workforce was required to self-quarantine with the result that the remaining employees/workforce cannot usefully be employed
• if there was a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer could not be held responsible.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Enterprise agreements and employment contracts can have different or extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay, for example, a requirement to notify or consult. Employers should consider whether their obligations are impacted by any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies.

Employers are not required to make payments to employees for the period of a stand down but may choose to pay their employees. Employees accrue leave as normal.

An employee is not taken to be stood down during a period when the employee is taking paid or unpaid leave that is authorised by the employer or the employee is otherwise authorised to be absent.

The stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act, enterprise agreements or contracts of employment are not usually relied on for casual employees. See What about casual employees and independent contractors?
Other options that an employer may consider instead of stand down include:
• seeking employees’ agreement to take paid (or unpaid) leave for a period
• in limited circumstances, directing employees to take paid annual leave
• in limited circumstances, negotiating with employees to change regular rosters or hours of work
• terminating the employment of the employees, in which case the employer may have to provide redundancy pay. See What if an employer needs to let employees go?

The Fair Work Act includes requirements that employers have to meet before they can terminate an employee’s employment, such as providing notice of termination. An employee is also protected from being dismissed because of discrimination, a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable or another protected right. Employers are prohibited from exerting undue influence or undue pressure on employees in relation to making certain agreements or arrangements.

Example: Lack of vital supply – Stand down

Sally’s company operates a business that imports and sells electrical goods which are manufactured in China. The factory in China ceases to operate as a result of coronavirus and announces that it will not be exporting any goods for a period of at least 3 months.

Sally explores other options but is unable to identify any alternative work of any value for her 20 permanent employees to do.

Sally closes her shop and regrettably informs her employees that they are to be stood down without pay. Sally explains that they are entitled to take any accrued paid leave during the period as an alternative to being stood down without pay.

Example: Non-essential services – stand down of employees

Gemma is a part-time employee at a cinema complex in Melbourne’s CBD. The cinema employs 10 permanent employees and 15 casual employees. The Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer issued an enforceable government direction under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) that certain non-essential services must shut down because of coronavirus.

Gemma’s manager calls her to explain that the cinema is closed for the duration of the Government’s direction and that cinema management will need to stand all employees down without pay, as they can’t be usefully employed.

Gemma and her colleagues are advised that permanent employees can take any accrued annual leave they have as an alternative to being stood down without pay. However, casual employees are not entitled to be paid while the business is closed.

Example: Non-essential services – no stand down of employees

Teddy is a part-time food and beverage attendant in a Sydney restaurant. The New South Wales Government issued an enforceable government direction under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) that certain non-essential services must shut down because of coronavirus.

Teddy’s employer contacts him to let him know that the restaurant has closed its dining service immediately for the duration of the direction. The restaurant will continue offering its take away and delivery service. Teddy’s employer lets him know that instead of carrying out his usual waiting duties at the restaurant, he and the other waiting staff will be needed to help with receiving, packing and delivering orders.

This is not a stand down because Teddy can still be usefully employed, so he’ll continue to be paid.

More information:
Pay during inclement weather & stand down

What if an employee cannot attend work because their child’s school or childcare centre has closed due to coronavirus?

Employees who cannot come to work because they need to care for a child whose school or childcare centre has closed will ordinarily need to use paid leave entitlements to be paid for their absence.

Paid carer’s leave is available to full-time or part-time employees where the employee needs to look after a family member or a member of their household who requires care or support because of a personal illness or unexpected emergency affecting the member. A school or childcare centre closing on short notice and for a short period due to concerns about coronavirus (for example, because someone at the school has tested positive) is an unexpected emergency for this purpose.

Casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full-time and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left.

An employee must give their employer reasonable evidence of the unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it. This will also apply to situations relating to coronavirus.

Other arrangements that may be available include:
• working from home (if this is a practical option and consistent with any applicable award, enterprise agreement, employment contract or workplace policy) or other flexible working arrangements
• taking annual leave
• taking any other leave (such as long service leave or any other leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)
• taking any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.

More information:
Paid sick and carer’s leave
Unpaid carer’s leave
Annual leave
Long service leave.

Example: Employee needs to care for a child during childcare centre closure

Alastor has just received an email from his daughter’s childcare centre letting him know that the centre will be closed from tomorrow for 48 hours because a child at the centre has tested positive to coronavirus. Alastor immediately contacts his employer to let them know he’ll need to stay at home during the closure to care for his daughter.

They discuss whether working from home is an option, but decide that given Alastor needs to actively care for his daughter he is unable to work at his normal capacity.

Alastor’s employer lets him know that he can take paid carer’s leave because the closure of the childcare centre on short notice is an unexpected emergency. Alastor forwards the email from the child care centre to his employer as evidence.

Example: Employee needs to care for a child during school closure

Winona’s children attend a government primary school in Victoria. On Sunday, 22 March 2020, she received an email from the school informing her that the Victorian Government has brought the holidays forward to Tuesday, 24 March 2020. This means Winona needs to organise care for her children earlier than planned.

Usually, when Winona needs care for her children at short notice her parents help her out. However, given the Government’s social distancing recommendations, she’s unable to ask her parents to look after her children.

Winona is currently working from home after her office closed down but she lets her employer know she won’t be able to work at all now while she cares for her children. They discuss her leave options. As this situation is an unexpected emergency, Winona goes on paid carer’s leave until 30 March 2020, when the school holidays were expected to start.

What happens if an employee or their family member is sick with coronavirus?

Employees who are sick with coronavirus cannot attend the workplace for a period due to the workplace health and safety legal obligations that both employers and employees have.

Employers can direct employees who are sick with coronavirus not to come to work. Employers can do this if they’re acting reasonably and based on factual information about health and safety risks, which includes relying on the Australian Government’s health and quarantine guidelines.

Full-time and part-time employees who cannot come to work because they’re sick with coronavirus can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or a member of their household who’s sick with coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they’re entitled to take paid carer’s leave. An employer cannot require an employee to take sick or carer’s leave. However, in these circumstances, the employee isn’t entitled to be paid unless they use their paid leave entitlements.

Under the Fair Work Act, casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full-time and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left. Employers should consider their obligations under any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies, which may be more generous.

An employee must give their employer reasonable evidence of the illness or unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it. This also applies to situations relating to coronavirus.

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee is protected from being dismissed because of their temporary absence due to illness or injury.

More information:
Paid sick and carer’s leave
Long periods of sick leave
Unpaid carer’s leave
Notice and medical certificates.

What if an employee is stuck overseas or is required to be quarantined or to self-isolate?

Employees should contact their employer immediately if they’re unable to attend work because they cannot return from overseas, are required to enter quarantine or to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

The Fair Work Act does not have specific rules for these kinds of situations so employees and employers need to come to their own arrangement. This may include:
• working from home or another location (if this is a practical option), noting they should review any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employment contracts or workplace policies
• taking sick leave if the employee is sick
• taking annual leave
• taking any other leave available to them (such as long service leave or any other leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)
• arranging any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.

Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee to stay home in line with advice, for example in line with the Australian Government’s health and quarantine advice, and the employee isn’t sick with coronavirus, the employee should ordinarily be paid while the direction applies.

However, if an employee cannot work because they’re subject to an enforceable government direction requiring them to self-quarantine, the employee isn’t ordinarily entitled to be paid (unless they use leave entitlements). In this case, their inability to work is because of an enforceable government direction, not because of their employer.

If an employee cannot work due to travel restrictions (for example, they are stuck overseas), they’re not entitled to be paid (unless they use paid leave entitlements).

Employers should consider whether their obligations are impacted by any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies, which may be more generous.

Example: Employee required to self-quarantine following overseas travel

Sebastian is a mechanic living in Victoria. He returned from an overseas holiday on 18 March 2020, after the Victorian Chief Health Officer gave an enforceable direction concerning overseas travel.

The enforceable direction means that Sebastian has to self-quarantine for 14 days after his arrival in Victoria. Sebastian contacts his employer immediately to let them know he cannot come into work.

Sebastian doesn’t have any more paid leave available after his holiday.

His employer lets him know he can undertake some basic administrative work from home, such as ordering stock. The amount of work available will only take 3 hours a day to complete. This means Sebastian will be paid for 3 hours a day but isn’t entitled to payment for the rest of his ordinary hours.

Example: Employee required to self-isolate – able to work from home

Amelia is required to self-isolate for 14 days after being in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus. She contacts her employer immediately to let them know she can’t come into work.

After discussing the requirements of the role with her employer, they agree that Amelia can work from home during the self-isolation period as long as she feels well.

After 1 week of self-isolation, Amelia starts to feel unwell. She calls her employer to let them know the change in her health. Amelia stops working from home and takes sick leave.

More information:
Paid sick and carer’s leave
Unpaid carer’s leave
Annual leave
Long service leave.
• Australian Government Department of Health – for the latest information on coronavirus, including requirements and conditions for isolation and quarantine periods and when testing should be sought
• Services Australia – for information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including Centrelink payments and support.

What if an employee wants to stay home as a precaution?

Employees who want to stay at home as a precaution (but who are not directed to by either their employer or an enforceable government direction) need to come to an arrangement with their employer that best suits their workplace. This may include requesting to work from home (if this is a practical option) or taking some form of paid or unpaid leave, such as annual leave or long service leave. Normal leave application processes in the workplace apply. If the employee doesn’t enter into an arrangement with their employer or use paid leave, they’re not entitled to payment in these circumstances. You can find information on self-quarantine requirements on the Australian Government Department of Health’s website .

Employees are encouraged to discuss their level of risk of contracting coronavirus with their doctor, workplace health and safety representative or the appropriate Commonwealth, State or Territory workplace health and safety body.

Employees who don’t work because they have a reasonable concern about an imminent risk to their health or safety are not taking industrial action. This is provided they’re not failing to comply with a direction to perform other appropriate and safe work.

More information:
• Taking annual leave
• Long service leave.

Example: Employee chooses to self-isolate due to health concerns

Jeff wants to self-isolate as a precaution because he has a weakened immune system. He contacts his employer to discuss his concerns and asks to work from home for the next few weeks.

Jeff’s employer is already aware of his condition. They check their working from home policy and conduct a risk assessment to make sure Jeff’s home office will be safe for him to use. They then let Jeff know that they’re happy to let him work from home for the next 2 weeks.

Jeff and his employer agree that after 2 weeks, they’ll review the arrangement to make sure it’s working and to discuss whether it’s still necessary.

What if an employer wants their employees to stay home as a precaution?

Under workplace health and safety laws, employers must ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace as far as is reasonably practicable. Workers also have responsibilities under those laws.

If an employee is at risk of infection from coronavirus (for example, because they’ve recently travelled from overseas, or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus), employers should request that they work from home (if this is a practical option – see When can employees work from home?) or not work during the risk period.

Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work due to workplace health and safety risks but the employee is ready, willing and able to work, the employee is generally entitled to be paid while the direction applies. However, if an employee cannot work because they’re subject to an enforceable government direction requiring them to self-quarantine, the employee isn’t ordinarily entitled to be paid (unless they use leave entitlements).

Employers should consider whether their obligations are impacted by any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies, which may be more generous.

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee can only be stood down without pay if they cannot be usefully employed because of equipment break down, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible. The most common scenarios are severe and inclement weather or natural disasters.
Standing down employees without pay is not generally available due to a deterioration of business conditions or because an employee has coronavirus. Enterprise agreements and employment contracts can have different or extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay. Employers are not required to make payments to employees for the period of a stand down, but may choose to pay their employees. (See When can employees be stood down without pay?)
Employers need to balance their legal obligations, including those relating to anti-discrimination.

More information:
Casual employees
Directing an employee to take annual leave
Protection from discrimination at work
• Australian Government Department of Health – for the latest information on coronavirus, including requirements and conditions for isolation and quarantine periods and when testing should be sought
Services Australia – for information and services to help you if you’re affected by coronavirus, including Centrelink payments and support.

When can employees work from home?

Working from home arrangements are usually agreed between an employer and employee. An employer who wants to direct an employee to work from home should review their obligations under any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employment contract or workplace policy. Employers should also consider the nature of the work involved and the suitability of the employee’s home. Workplace health and safety laws still apply even when an employee is working from home.
Where employees are required to record their hours of work (for example, in relation to annualised wage arrangements under some awards), this needs to continue when they’re working from home. Employers and employees are encouraged to discuss how this should occur.

More information:
your State or Territory workplace health and safety body
Comcare (Commonwealth) – for Australian Government employees and for employees of organisations which self-insure under the scheme.

What about casual employees and independent contractors?

Casual employees don’t have paid sick or carer’s leave entitlements under the National Employment Standards and usually are not entitled to be paid when they don’t work (for example, if they miss a shift because they are sick due to coronavirus or because they are otherwise required to self-isolate). Casual employees are paid a casual loading instead of paid leave entitlements. Employers should also consider their obligations under any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employees’ employment contracts or workplace policies.

Independent contractors are not employees and don’t have paid leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act. However, there are special provisions that deem contract outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry to be employees for the purposes of most protections under the Fair Work Act. Where these provisions apply, the contract outworker should be treated as an employee.

More information:
Casual employees
Independent contractors
Outworkers.

Can an employer change an employee’s regular roster or hours of work?

Employers need to consult employees about a change to their regular roster or ordinary hours of work under their award or enterprise agreement. In particular, employers have to:
• provide information about the change
• invite employees to give their views about the impact of the change (including any impact in relation to their family or caring responsibilities)
• consider their employees’ views about the impact of the change.

Awards and enterprise agreements may also set out extra rules about changing rosters or ordinary hours of work.

Changes to an employee’s start and finish times (for example, in order to avoid crowds during peak hours) might be possible under the span of hours provisions in an award or enterprise agreement. Some awards and enterprise agreements also allow the span of hours to be varied by agreement.

Reducing a permanent employee’s ordinary hours usually requires the employee’s agreement.

An employer and employee may agree to an ‘individual flexibility arrangement’, which allows them to vary terms in their award or enterprise agreement relating to when work is performed. Individual flexibility arrangements only apply to an individual employee, must be in writing, and are subject to a number of safeguards to ensure the agreement has been genuinely made and the employee is left better off overall.

More information:
Rosters
Individual flexibility arrangements.

What if an employer needs to let employees go?

Some employers may need to make employees’ positions redundant in response to a business downturn. If an employee’s job is made redundant, their employer may have to give them redundancy pay. The Fair Work Act has requirements that employers have to meet before they can terminate an employee’s employment, such as providing notice and payment for untaken annual leave.

Under the Fair Work Act, an employee is protected from being dismissed because of a temporary absence due to illness or injury. The Fair Work Act also includes protections against being dismissed because of discrimination, a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable or another protected right. These protections continue to operate in relation to employees impacted by coronavirus.

More information:
Redundancy pay & entitlements
Notice & final pay
Final pay
Protection from discrimination at work
Unfair dismissal.

Can employees be directed not to travel?
Employers can direct employees not to undertake work-related travel if this is necessary to meet workplace health and safety obligations or is otherwise a lawful and reasonable direction.

Employers are unlikely to be able to direct an employee not to undertake private travel.

MESSAGE FROM THE NSW TREASURER

IMPORTANT NATIONAL PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – EVENTS AND OPERATIONS STATEMENT

Members and Supporters

I would like to update you on how we are managing the development of COVID-19 given the recent advice on travel and isolations announced by the Federal Government over the weekend.

We are taking our advice from the Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19

 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by a new coronavirus. It was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

How is coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person in a similar way to the flu:

  • from close contact with an infected person;
  • from touching objects or surfaces contaminated by the sneeze or cough of an infected person and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth;

Symptoms similar to the flu, include fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath.

Most people who are infected experience mild to moderate symptoms from which they fully recover. However, some people may develop more serious illness with pneumonia and other complications. People at risk of more serious symptoms include the elderly, children, pregnant women, or those with immune system, cardiac or respiratory conditions.

 

What measures can I take to protect myself and those around me from the virus?

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and warm water.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places with known outbreaks of COVID-19.

 

What measures are the AIB taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

Australian Institute of Building will continue to provide staff, members, and supporting partners with further updates on the COVID-19 situation as more information comes to light.

Thorough hygiene practices will continue to be implemented across the office which includes the daily sanitisation of all necessary surfaces.

Staff are encouraged to regularly use the hand sanitiser provided and sanitising wipes.

 

Will the AIB be cancelling upcoming events?

We will be assessing all upcoming events and if necessary, will cancel or postpone events. Members, sponsors and staff will be informed prior to any cancellations or postponement. AIB will comply with any bans imposed by the Federal Government for mass gatherings. We will continue to encourage attendees to use their own personal protection measures and we will also provide access to sanitiser at our events or venues.

 

We are aware of the recent travel and social distancing restrictions initiated by the Australian and New Zealand Governments over the weekend. The Australian Institute of Building continues to assess what this means for the AIB and any impact these restrictions may have for the team and the day to day operations of the Institute.

 

Yours sincerely

David Burnell FAIB

National President

M:  0425 801719

E:   president@aib.org.au

ECONOMIC RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS

Media Release from the Australian Government

The Australian economy is resilient and we are well placed to navigate the economic implications arising from the Coronavirus.

The Government has moved quickly to put in place health measures to protect the Australian community from this complex and rapidly evolving challenge.

Today we announce an economic response totalling $17.6 billion across the forward estimates, representing 0.9 per cent of annual GDP. This package will protect the economy by maintaining confidence, supporting investment and keeping people in jobs. Additional household income and business support will flow through to strengthen the wider economy.

The Australian Government is acting decisively in the national interest to address the potentially significant economic consequences of the virus, without a permanent or structural impact on the budget balance.

OUR HEALTH SYSTEM IS WELL PREPARED TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE COMMUNITY

The outbreak of the Coronavirus is a new, complex and rapidly evolving challenge with significant health impacts. While the outbreak originated in China, significant outbreaks are now occurring in Italy, Iran and South Korea with more than 100 countries reporting infections.

To date, cases in Australia have been relatively small in number, but the medical advice is that the Coronavirus will continue to move through the Australian community.

Our health system is well prepared to manage an outbreak of the Coronavirus. We have a world-class health system which has pandemic plans that are currently activated. The Government has put in place strong measures to protect Australians, including activating the National Incident Room, releasing masks from the National Medical Stockpile, enhancing border controls and imposing strict travel restrictions. The Government will continue to respond as the situation develops.

The Government has committed an additional $2.4 billion to support our health system to manage any further outbreak in Australia. The package provides support across primary care, aged care, hospitals and research. It will ensure the capacity of our health system to effectively assess, diagnose and treat people with the Coronavirus in a way that minimises its spread in the community and protects vulnerable Australians. The Government has also committed to pay for half of all additional costs incurred by states and territories in diagnosing and treating patients with, or suspected of having, the Coronavirus, and efforts to minimise the spread of the virus.

HOW THE CORONAVIRUS WILL AFFECT THE GLOBAL AND AUSTRALIAN ECONOMIES

The Coronavirus outbreak not only affects people’s health and the health systems of the countries affected, it is also having significant economic implications.

Going into this outbreak, there were tentative signs that global economic conditions were improving, following a period of weaker growth over much of 2019. World merchandise trade volumes strengthened in late 2019 and survey measures of production in manufacturing and services industries improved in some key economies.

Economic activity in Australia was also strengthening at the end of 2019. The Australian economy grew by 2.2 per cent through the year to the December quarter 2019, a step up from 1.8 per cent through the year to the September quarter. Growth was expected to pick up over the forecast period, supported by the personal income tax relief announced in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Budgets and the Government’s $100 billion investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure. Accommodative monetary policy and a lower Australian dollar were also expected to support a pick-up in growth.

Australia’s position heading into this crisis was stronger than many, with both the IMF and the OECD forecasting Australia to grow faster than comparable economies, including the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany and France.

While highly uncertain, it is clear that the spread of the Coronavirus across the world is having a negative economic impact.

The economic implications of the Coronavirus outbreak to date have been most significant for the Chinese economy. This reflects the size of the outbreak in China and the measures taken to contain its spread. A range of economic indicators are showing that the Chinese economy has been severely impacted. A survey measure of activity in the manufacturing sector had its largest fall in its history in February, while activity in China’s services sector, particularly transport, real estate and hotel and catering, has weakened substantially.

The negative economic effect in China is having global implications. Relative to SARS in 2003, China’s economy is substantially larger and more interconnected with the world, including Australia. Two-thirds of the world’s economies now have China as one of their top three trading partners. Economies are experiencing reduced Chinese demand for services overseas such as travel and tourism, and there are increasing reports of reduced access to goods through supply chains.

The global economic implications have broadened as the Coronavirus has spread to other nations.

The global nature of the shock is evident in financial markets. Stock markets have fallen substantially around the world in recent weeks, while corporate bond spreads have widened. The Australian dollar is 6 per cent lower on a trade-weighted basis than it was in early January.

Financial regulators around the world are monitoring conditions closely and there is strong communication amongst our domestic agencies through the Council of Financial Regulators. The Australian financial system is strong and resilient. Financial markets are continuing to function effectively. Since the global financial crisis, reforms have been implemented that collectively contribute to a significant increase in the resilience of our financial system. Specific reforms include: increasing the quantity and quality of banks’ capital and liquidity positions; strengthening the RBA’s ability to provide financial institutions with emergency funding during periods of liquidity stress; and strengthening APRA’s crisis management powers.

Oil prices have fallen, to be around 50 per cent lower than prices in early January, reflecting falling global demand and the collapse of an agreement between major producers to reduce output. While oil-linked LNG export prices will be negatively affected by these falls, consumers will benefit from lower petrol prices.

In contrast, prices of key bulk commodities have remained resilient to date. This is likely due to an expectation that the Chinese authorities will move to boost domestic demand through ongoing stimulus measures, including increased investment in infrastructure.

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, fiscal authorities in a number of countries have enacted measures to support both their health systems and their economy more broadly. Governments are providing support, particularly to sectors and workers most affected by the outbreak, and more announcements are expected. Monetary policy is responding with more than 35 central banks across the world easing policy in 2020 so far. This includes the RBA, which reduced the cash rate by 25 basis points in March to a record low of 0.5 per cent.

The fiscal response in a number of key economies, including China, South Korea, Italy and Singapore, has so far focussed on supporting businesses through this period of uncertainty, for example through restructuring of loans, tax cuts or retraining. Fiscal responses have also supported households, for example through cash payments, income support or tax credits.

Like other economies around the world, the Australian economy is already feeling the effects of the global Coronavirus outbreak. Tourist and student arrivals have been significantly lower than they were in late 2019, and demand for some premium agricultural products has fallen. The reduction in tourism demand comes on top of the effects on tourism from the summer’s bushfires, which caused some travellers to cancel or delay their trips to Australia. The effect on the education sector is significant, with over 100,000 Chinese international students not in Australia when the travel ban was actioned.

Based largely on the direct effect of lower international students and tourism expenditure, the Coronavirus outbreak is expected to detract at least ½ of a percentage point from economic growth in Australia in the March quarter 2020. This is on top of the estimated detraction from growth from the bushfires of 0.2 percentage points across the December and March quarters.

There remains considerable uncertainty around the potential economic implications of the Coronavirus for the June quarter and beyond. The economic shock is likely to be significant. There are a wide range of potential paths for the spread and containment of the virus globally and in Australia. In addition, there is uncertainty around the impact on confidence, people’s ability to work and business cash flow. The global spread of the virus and its global economic impact will also flow through to demand for Australia’s exports and the availability of inputs into domestic production and imported consumption goods.

There are automatic mechanisms that will help to support activity. The flexible exchange rate helps to mitigate the effect of shocks to global demand, we have a sound and well-capitalised banking sector and our labour market has shown that it can flexibly respond as firms adjust more through hours than the number of employees. Automatic fiscal responses, such as reductions in tax revenue and higher payments to households, will also support activity by households and businesses. With accommodative monetary policy and this package of support, we are confident that the Australian economy is well placed to get through this shock.

HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS RESPONDING

This $17.6 billion package represents fiscal support across the forward estimates of 0.9 per cent of annual GDP. This significant action has been taken in the national interest to guard against more severe economic impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak. The package is front-loaded in order to instil confidence in businesses and households and help firms keep people employed. This will ensure that the economy is in the best possible position to recover as the shock subsides.

The 2020-21 Budget, to be delivered in May, will present the latest official forecasts for the economy and fiscal position. It will reflect the various developments which have taken place since the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, including the economic and fiscal impacts of the response package.

The IMF and OECD have indicated that Australia is in one of the best positions within advanced economies to provide fiscal support without endangering debt sustainability. This package has been designed to be fiscally responsible. The measures will not have a permanent or structural impact on the budget balance. The Government is protecting the structural integrity of the Budget to keep debt low for future generations.

The international credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s has indicated that temporary stimulus would be ‘unlikely to strain Australia’s creditworthiness’ given the Government’s commitment to maintain medium-term fiscal discipline.

The measures included in this package complement existing programs that are supporting the economy.

These include the already announced packages to support the recovery from the bushfires and drought.

The Government’s response is tailored to the nature of the shock and has been designed around seven key principles. These are that:

  • measures must be proportionate to the degree of the economic shock and the impact on the economy;
  • measures need to be timely and scalable, so they can be adjusted appropriately as the health and economic effects unfold;
  • the response needs to be targeted to address the specific issues we are confronting, supporting those most affected, and delivered where it will be most effective;
  • the response needs to be aligned with the many other arms of policy and activity, in particular monetary policy, and with the responses of other governments, particularly at a state and territory level;
  • existing delivery mechanisms should be used, wherever possible;
  • the measures must be temporary and accompanied by a fiscal exit strategy; and
  • measures should favour those that will lift productivity to enable the Australian economy to sustain an even stronger growth trajectory than we were on prior to the crisis.

SUMMARY OF THE ECONOMIC RESPONSE

The Government’s economic response addresses the economic impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak. It is intended to support confidence, employment and business continuity. It is designed to support business investment, help small businesses manage short-term cash flow challenges, provide targeted support to individuals and assistance to the most severely affected communities and regions.

  1. Delivering support for business investment

The Government is backing businesses to invest to help the economy withstand and recover from the economic impact of the Coronavirus. The two business investment measures in this package are designed to assist Australian businesses and economic growth in the short term, and encourage a stronger economic recovery following the Coronavirus outbreak.

Increasing the instant asset write-off

From today, the Government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. In 2017-18 there were more than 360,000 businesses that benefited from the current instant asset write-off, claiming deductions to the value of over $4 billion.

Backing business investment

The Government is introducing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50 per cent of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost.

These two measures will support over 3.5 million businesses (over 99 per cent of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees.

  1. Cash flow assistance for businesses

This assistance will support businesses to manage cash flow challenges resulting from the economic impacts of the Coronavirus and help businesses retain their employees. These two measures are designed to support employing small and medium enterprises and to improve business confidence.

Boosting cash flow for employers

The Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure will provide up to $25,000 back to small and medium-sized businesses, with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible businesses. The payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff. The payment will be tax free.

This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people.

Supporting apprentices and trainees

The Government is supporting small business to retain their apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that apprentice.

This measure will support up to 70,000 small businesses, employing around 117,000 apprentices.

  1. Stimulus payments to households to support growth

This measure will assist around 6.5 million lower income Australians, which will support confidence and domestic demand in the economy.

Stimulus payments

The Government will provide a one-off $750 payment to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Around half of those that will benefit are pensioners.

There will be one payment per eligible recipient. For example, if a person qualifies for the one-off payment in multiple ways, they will only receive one payment.

The payment will be tax free and will not count as income for Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments.

  1. Assistance for severely affected regions

This measure provides $1 billion to support regions most significantly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. Support for Coronavirus-affected regions and communities

The Government has set aside $1 billion to support those regions and communities that have been disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the Coronavirus, including those heavily reliant on industries such as tourism, agriculture and education.

This will include the waiver of fees and charges for tourism businesses that operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the waiver of entry fees for Commonwealth National Parks. It will also include additional assistance to help businesses identify alternative export markets or supply chains. Targeted measures will also be developed to further promote domestic tourism.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is also providing administrative relief for some tax obligations for people affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, on a case-by-case basis. The ATO will set up a temporary shop front in Cairns within the next few weeks with dedicated staff specialising in assisting small business. In addition, it will consider ways to enhance its presence in other significantly affected regions, making it easier for people to apply for relief. The ATO is considering further temporary shop fronts and face-to-face options.

PACKAGE IMPLEMENTATION

The Government will move quickly to implement this package. To that end, a package of Bills will be introduced into Parliament in the final Autumn sitting week in March 2020 for Parliament’s urgent consideration and passage.

Following passage of the Bills through Parliament, the Government will then move to immediately make, and register, any supporting instruments.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information on the Australian Government’s Economic Response to Coronavirus visit treasury.gov.au/coronavirus.

Download pdf here